Is Invisibility a Middle-Age Superpower?


invisible woman superhero illustration paula mangin

The other night while playing poker with my dear friends, all connected by age and advertising, Laura brought up that awful feeling of walking down the street and no one looks. Or notices. Or cares.

She lamented:

“I can’t help thinking of “a tree falling in the forest” analogy for some reason:   If a middle aged woman walks into a bar and no one sees her, is she really there at all?”

As we hid our cards from each other while pondering our bets, we laid our emotional cards on the table. Sure, there was no denying that moving about un-noticed made us sad. But on the other hand…was it our Superpower? Did it mean we were free to do whatever we wanted?

I remembered I had written a post about this very issue, of being “Invisible”, a few years back. In the spirit of being “green”, I thought I’d recycle that piece and post it below.


Friday night a girl walks into a bar.

Only she’s not a girl at all, but a middle-aged woman.

That middle-aged woman is me.

The bar is packed with young, enthusiastic, attractive kids who’ve arrived from their jobs and/or flats full of roommates and hope to start their evenings and life journeys. I’m at the end of mine. And in this place, I have never felt more out of place.

I lean against the bar to talk to my friends who urged me to come, even though I’ve got a good 20+ years on most of them, (knocked down to 10 in the dark and flattering bar light) and realize, to my horror, that no one is looking at me.

It’s not that I look bad; I was having an excellent hair day, felt comfortable in my big pair of men’s Levi’s and small Jockey wife-beater that took an hour to settle on and seconds to assemble, not wanting to look too put-together for such a casual, what-the-fuck outing. It’s just that nothing that I did, save from wearing a ghost costume, would turn me 25.

Last month, collapsed across my therapist’s couch, I whined about the many ways getting older sucks, and how it seems that almost overnight I have become, well, old, at least compared to everyone else I work with, walk by, eat across from or downward-dog next to.

“Well,” she says, “Wait until you are my age, when you don’t just look older, but you are so old no one looks. You become invisible.”

I am obviously terrified by this and curl up into a tight ball.

“Oh no,” says my therapist. “It was upsetting at first, but after a while, it becomes liberating.” She went on. “Because I realized I could truly do anything I want, and no one would judge or care because no one would see.”

I continue to be terrified by this. If no one looks, or cares, why get up in the morning? Why get dressed, or care about what dress to wear?

I suppose I will always care. I want to care. And maybe this fact should give us all the courage to really be and do and wear anything and everything and do it for ourselves. And thrive on all of this transparency. The stage is ours alone.

Back to the bar.

If I’m being honest here, I start to feel, well, relieved that this is all well behind me. Those years, as exhilarating as they were, were also exhausting. Would I trade places with those adorable young girls around me, Brazilian blow-outed and Brazilian waxed, desperate to land a promotion.

No. And while they anxiously check their lipstick and iphones, I quietly go home to my husband and cats. Invisible.

And one thing is clear: it pays to be invisible. This shit is expensive.

transparent sheer fashion

1.Wanda nylon biker jacket, Yoox. 2. San Diego Hat Company rain hat with ears, Bluefly. 3. Comme Des Garcons Noir Kei Ninomiya sheer bolero jacket, Farfetch. 4. Celine PVC boots, Real Real. 5. MSGM tiered tulle skirt, Moda Operandi. 6. Loewe perspex bangle, Farfetch.


Leave a Reply